Exposure to moderate doses of UV B (0.35 to 0.79 W m(sup-2) s(sup-1) or 0.98 to 2.2 (mu)mol of photons m(sup-2) s(sup-1) at 310 nm) caused the surface layers of microbial mats from Solar Lake, Sinai, Egypt, to become visibly lighter green. Concurrent with the color change were rapid and dramatic reductions in gross photosynthesis and in the resultant high porewater oxygen concentrations in the surface layers of the mats. The depths at which both maximum gross photosynthesis and maximum oxygen concentrations occurred were displaced downward. In contrast, gross photosynthesis in the deeper layers of the mats increased in response to UV B incident upon the surface. The cessation of exposure to UV B partially reversed all of these changes. Taken together, these responses suggest that photoautotrophic members of the mat community, most likely the dominant cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes, were migrating in response to the added UV B. The migration phenomenon was also observed in response to increases in visible radiation and UV A, but UV B was ca. 100-fold more effective than visible radiation and ca. 20-fold more effective than UV A in provoking the response. Migrating microorganisms within this mat are apparently able to sense UV B directly and respond behaviorally to limit their exposure to UV. Because of strong vertical gradients of light and dissolved substances in microbial mats, the migration and the resultant vertical redistribution of photosynthetic activity have important consequences for both the photobiology of the cyanobacteria and the net primary productivity of the mat ecosystem.